A good walk, pleasant conversation -what’s not to like! Here’s a checklist for a successful doorknock.

Comfort

  • Dress for comfort. Dress appropriately for the weather. And dress up a little (that old unwashed T-shirt with the bumper stickers and buttons you love so much? No. Take that off. Wash it. Then burn it. Please.)

  • Find a friend who will go with you as campaign season progresses.

  • Bring your fully charged phone.

  • Bring water and a snack. Note: these are often in plentiful supply at campaign HQ.

  • Park near your door knock route and move the car from time to time to be close to it.

Voter Rights and Safety:

Enough about you! What about the voters? First know that door knocking is a protected form of free speech –one solicitors do not have. You are not violating the law even if there is a no solicitation sign, however you should be sensitive to voter’s wishes.

  • Do not take their lawn signs, pick their flowers or hand them their newspaper. Picking up a bit of trash is nice as long as you don’t hand it to them!

  • Do not argue. If you feel the urge, leave; remember, this is their home.

  • Walk on walkways and driveways not on lawns or through gardens.

  • Do not put literature in mail boxes –it’s illegal. Wedge it in the door or other noticeable place where it won’t end up flying around the neighborhood.

  • Do not surprise people. Make noise as you approach.

  • Do not go around the back of the house or peer in windows.

  • Stay out of secure buildings. Do not get one tenant to open the door and then call on everyone in the building. Doorknocks on these building need to be arranged by the campaign in advance.

  • People get nervous if you talk to their kids beyond asking for mom and dad.

Safety

Nothing is more important than your safety. Incidents are exceedingly rare -let’s keep it that way! Here are some tips:

  • Trust your instincts over politeness or social convention. Leave an area if you feel uncomfortable.

  • Take your cell phone or ask for one (burners are standard campaign gear).

  • Share you phone number with HQ and the people you are door knocking with.

  • If you are uncomfortable going alone, ask for a partner. If campaign staff insists you go alone, refuse and lodge a complaint with the campaign manager.

  • Drive the route before you begin.

  • When carpooling or splitting up, agree on meeting places and times.

  • Know where you are going. Most campaigns provide maps.

  • Ask to contact voters in your own neighborhood. You not only know the area better, you will be better received as a “neighbor”.

  • With the staff, agree on a time to return to the office. If you will be out for a while, check in with your partner and/or the campaign to let them know where you are.

  • Bring a flashlight -in Northern states it gets dark before the end of late shifts.

  • Dress to be seen.

  • If the dog looks scary, move on.

  • If the voter looks scary, run!

Materials

  • Walk Sheet -a list of addresses and a map to them. Your walk sheet will show the target voters in a household, sometimes identified by age, gender and party leanings (or “no data”). You will note corrections and party/candidate/issue leaning on the walk sheet.

  • Pen, for checking off boxes and writing short notes on individual voters -things like “scary dog!” or “Brews anthrax in garage”.

  • Voter Registration Cards -don’t leave home without ’em!

  • Candidate/issue literature.

  • Smart phone -you may be able to get your walk sheet through an app where you can enter data directly into the database.

Now Go get ’em Tiger!

OK, you are primed, pumped and ready for this! (And you’re maybe a little nervous; that’s normal.) Here are some hints on getting the conversation started:

  • Consult your walk sheet before you go to the door. Look for any information that may be helpful. Party ID is likely already noted as well as gender and age. If there’s a dotted line on the walksheet between your voter and the next, it means they live in the same household -if you don’t get the first person, ask for the next.

  • Remember that you will need to contact many people. Have a feel for the time and avoid twenty minute conversations.

  • Avoid yes/no questions (except for the “ask” -”Will you be a voter for _____”). You want a conversation during the persuasion phase or information during the identification phase. Especially avoid asking if you can have a few moments of their time; it is polite, but you’ve just given the nervous voter an easy way out of the conversation.

  • Introduce yourself and why you are there. If you have any connection to the area mention it up front. “Hello, my name is ___. I’m a volunteer and I live here in (our neighborhood, down the street, here on the west side).”. People are more comfortable talking to -and less likely to hassle- someone who lives nearby and who they might see again!

  • It is OK to make a little sincere small talk “I like your garden, or “nice doggie” but keep it short.

  • Again, if you are contacting voters in your neighborhood, by all means identify yourself as a “neighbor”!